DAY 34 (cont.)
The doors opened upon a wide entry hall. On the left was a closet door filled with cloaks and two ornately crafted long swords mounted on the wall. To the right, double doors opened upon the parlor the party had viewed from outside. The characters decked themselves out with cloaks and explored the parlor, where they discovered a cabinet filled with decanters of liquid and noted that the fire was burning without any apparent fuel! Upon exiting the parlor, there was a new presence in the entry hall – a skeletal form in rusted mail wielding a wicked looking two-handed sword. Its eyes glowing with a cruel intelligence, it lunged at the party, cutting down its members almost as fast as Fugly could raise them with his healing spells. When Ka had fallen and been revived in this fashion, she finished off the hideous creature with a couple fierce blows from her crescent-shaped sword! Reeling from this perilous encounter, the party decided to barricade itself in the parlor and explore further after a good night’s rest. During his watch in the middle of the night, Mabe noticed the face of a bearded man peering from outside through one of the porch windows. The two locked gazes for only a few moments before the figure disappeared into the gloom of night.
The next, the party pressed further into the interior of the house. Their early discoveries included a locked door with strange runes inscribed in the lintel overhead and a sizable library occupied by a floating female apparition of hideous aspect that seemed to respond menacingly to noise. Preferring caution over curiosity, the party moved on without entering. They soon came to a sparely appointed study, where they were assaulted by a strange, winged humanoid figure who sprung out from behind a chair in the corner. After defeating the creature the group discovered and claimed a gnarled quarterstaff mounted on the wall, an opaque bottle of liquid and a pewter chalice standing on a small table by the chair, and an onyx gemstone with the letter “R” inlaid in gold. Moving on from this chamber, the party found itself in a corridor in which there seemed to be some strange force at work blocking progress toward the door at its end. By way of experimentation, Mabe successfully flung his spear at the door, but found no way of recovering it. Making their way back to the center of the house, the party halted briefly while Mabe took one of the mounted long swords from the entry hall.
From there they proceeded north until the hall opened upon a huge chamber that was open to the second floor. Here they noted a massive, intact dragon skeleton suspended from the ceiling, a 6’ tall golden harp was propped up in the northwest corner, and several fancy tapestries hanging from the walls. Exiting this room, they found themselves in a kitchen with a jar resting on a table and a glass box mounted on the wall. Pausing only briefly, they moved on to an adjacent room with a large dining table and an ornately carved sideboard. A chandelier of lit candles seemed to cast shadows on the floor, indicating seven guests that should have been seated at the table but were otherwise nowhere to be seen! When Mabe attempted to cross the room, these shadows pealed off the floor and walls to attack the party! Their blows caused no obvious damage, but sapped the strength of their targets. These seemingly intangible creatures did proved susceptible to blows from all the weapons the party had collected in the house (including the two-handed sword, the gnarled staff and the antique longsword) and proved quite vulnerable to the turning attempts of Fugly. It was soon discovered that extinguishing the candles eliminated the creatures that remained, cowering from Fugly in a corner. About this time, ominous sounds of a gathering storm were heard and the house began to grow darker.
After Mabe and Elessar briefly ascended the stair from the great hall to get a look at the second level, the party decided to return to the kitchen to explore it more thoroughly. After some debate, the group decided that one of their number should attempt to open the jar, which they could now see was clearly labled “cookies.” Elessar volunteered and seemed to manage this assignment with no trouble at first, finding the jar to be empty (which fact Mabe confirmed to his satisfaction). They also noted this time that the glass case also bore a label, this one reading “in case of fire, break glass”, and that it contained some kind of rod. This they decided to leave undisturbed for the moment and turned their attention to another door leading from the room. This proved to open upon a larder with shelving covering most of the walls and a bare table standing at its center. A careful search of the room revealed a large hole in the wall, one that would seem to accommodate large, but not giant, rodents. Curiosity getting the better of the party, they decided to take a crowbar to this hole to see if they could enlarge it and see what it might contain. While Mabe was occupied with this activity, a strange change came over Elessar and he began to make magical gestures without a word of explanation. This soon resulted in Mabe’s being frozen in place, while Elessar seemed to turn his attention upon Ka, performing more mystical gestures and mouthing cryptic utterances. Standing in confusion, Ka and Fugly awaited the fatal result, as magical, glowing missiles issued forth from Elessar’s fingertips, sending Ka’s form crumpling to the floor. Fugly then leaped into action and it was down to the two of them to determine the fate of the party. Fortune was with Fugly, who managed to knock Elessar (now claiming aloud to be the spirit of one “Brayden the Most Black”) unconscious with several blows of his mace.
After sadly confirming that Ka was beyond help, Fugly securely restrained Elessar with rope before administering sufficient care to prevent his death and then waited anxiously for Mabe to snap out of the spell that had immobilized him. When this had occurred after the passing of an hour, the two debated their next move. They decided to pass the evening again in the parlor and commit Ka to her final rest the following day. In their distress, they failed to barricade the door and found themselved confronted during the night by another undead denizen of the house, this one a corpse-like female form in servant’s garb. The miserable pair managed to defeat this threat, while the maniacal gaze of Brayden the Most Black looked on mockingly through the eyes of their friend Elessar.
In the morning, Fugly used a detect evil spell to confirm that Elessar was still not himself (in spite of his claims to the contrary). Fugly and Mabe decided to give themselves another day to recover before venturing out to properly dispose of Ka’s remains, resigning themselves to a long day in the parlor together with their captive.
At daybreak, Fugly and Mabe bound Elessar to a tree near the house and set themselves to work raising a pyre for Ka. While they were occupied with this work, a mysterious dark-haired woman appeared from behind the porch. In response to her quick move towards Elessar, Mabe took up his spear and began racing towards her. After regarding Elessar intently for a brief few moments, she wheeled around to confront the approaching warrior, issuing a command to halt. Refusing to comply, Mabe felt the sudden force of an attempted enchantment, which he successfully resisted. Noting the failure of her spell, the woman fled around the corner of the manor and Mabe halted to consult with Fugly. While they debated their next move, they heard soft sobs coming from Elessar. The elf once again claimed to have recovered possession of himself, this time in somewhat more convincing terms. Willing to take no chances, however, Mabe and Fugly declined to unbind him until the claim could be proven. After laying Ka upon her pyre and lighting it, the two paid their respects and retreated once more to the parlor with Elessar in bonds.
The first order of business was to test Elessar’s assertions with another detection spell. Once accomplished, the elf was finally released and the three remaining companions, chastened by the loss of Ka and growing anxious over their dwindling rations, began to plan for a departure. Projecting that it would take a couple more days for everyone to heal up to full strength, Fugly suggested that he might invoke the power of Nant to purify any viable-looking foodstuffs they could recover from the larder. Soon after they had all agreed to this plan, they noticed the cloaked figure of a woman standing outside, regarding the house from beside the ashes of Ka’s pyre. They cautiously emerged onto the porch and issued a suspicious greeting, which was met with an equally stern and cautious salutation from the newcomer. The woman then claimed to have been summoned to meet the party on and perhaps recruit them for an important and dangerous task. After a few moments of tense negotiation, the three adventurers agreed to follow the woman, who called herself Mali, to the rear of the house, where her patroness was waiting. This patroness, called Ona, turned out to be no other than the woman whom Mabe had chased away the previous day. She emerged from a great white oak to regard the party imperiously from the interior side of a tall wrought iron fence circumscribing a large garden on the north side of the manor. Ona made dark allusions to unfinished business, hinting that, should the party return to Wodfeld, they would find that a rash of child appearances, after a pause of some one hundred years, had resumed in their absence. Proclaiming the Grombel to be their common foe, she chided the party that they stood little chance against this menace without her help. Producing a scroll from the folds of her robe, she handed it to the party, stating that all they would need could be found in and around the manor. Finally, just before merging once again into her tree, she turned to face the party, issuing a stern warning: “Whatever you do, do not touch the machine!”